"boo-LEE-mee-uh") is a type of
eating disorder. People with bulimia will eat a larger
amount of food than most people would in a similar situation, in a short period of time (binge). Then, in order to prevent weight gain, they will do something to get rid
of the food (purge). They may vomit, exercise too much, or use medicines like
People who have bulimia judge themselves harshly on their body weight and shape. In order to help them cope with these feelings, they follow a strict diet to try to lose weight. But over time the hunger from the strict diet triggers them to binge eat. After binge eating, they feel out of control, ashamed, guilty, and afraid of gaining weight. This distress
causes them to purge, in hopes of "undoing" any possible weight gain from the binge.
Without treatment, this "binge and purge"
cycle can lead to serious, long-term health problems. Acid in the mouth from
vomiting can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and loss of
tooth enamel. Any type of purging can lead to bone
thinning (osteoporosis), kidney damage, heart problems, or even
If you or someone you know has bulimia or another eating
disorder, get help. Eating disorders can be dangerous. And willpower alone is
not enough to overcome them. Treatment can help a person who has an eating
disorder feel better and be healthier.
All eating disorders are
complex problems, and experts do not really know what causes them. But they may
be caused by a mix of family history, social factors, and personality traits.
You may be more likely to have bulimia if:
- Other people in your family are obese or have
an eating disorder.
- You have a job or do a sport
that stresses body size, such as ballet, modeling, or gymnastics.
- You are often on a diet or you exercise too much in order to lose weight or change your body shape.
- Have a poor body image, or feel that your body should be slim like many people in the media.
You are the type of person who tries to be perfect all the time, never feels
good enough, or worries a lot.
- You are dealing with stressful
life events, such as divorce, moving to a new town or school, or losing a loved
Bulimia is most common in:
- Teens. Like other eating disorders, bulimia
usually starts in the teen years. But it can start even earlier or in
- Women. But boys and men have it too.
While bulimia often starts in the teen years, it usually
lasts into adulthood and is a long-term disorder.
People with bulimia:
- Binge eat on a regular basis. They eat larger amounts of food than most people would in a similar situation, in a
short period of time (2 hours or less). During a binge,
they feel out of control and feel unable to stop eating.
- Purge to
get rid of the food and avoid weight gain. They may make themselves vomit,
exercise very hard or for a long time, or misuse laxatives,
enemas, water pills (diuretics), or
- Base how they feel about themselves on how much they weigh and
how they look.
Any one of these can be a sign of an eating disorder that